Old Dog, New Tricks

As dads, busy with family and career, we often don’t leave time for ourselves. And if we do, it’s frequently just enough time to catch a football game or grab a beer. That’s nice, but it hardly helps us be all we can be. And it’s not intentional; it’s just that life fills our time rather quickly. It’s widely believed that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but I beg to differ. In fact, I suggest that old dogs can teach themselves new tricks if they put their mind to it. In fact, they should.

I’m a firm believer that guys shouldn’t stop being guys just because they become fathers. Sure, you can’t possibly have time for everything anymore, and family time should be a priority, but you can’t be at your best if you don’t take care of yourself. You can’t maintain a healthy sense of who you are if you lose your identity in the busy pace of family life. That means you need to carve out time for yourself on a regular basis.

I found this out recently when, now in my early 30s, I took up action sports again — rollerblading, to be specific. Not recreational rollerblading, but the kind done on ramps and off flights of stairs, X-Games style. It was a mainstay of my existence through childhood and even through college, but as I got married and started a career it fell by the wayside. I’ve always wanted to pick it back up again “when I had the time,” but we all know how that works, and I’m not getting any younger. I’m in relatively good shape from mountain biking several times a week, but haven’t had my skates on in at least 3 years.

Presented with some time off from work with the birth of our third child, I stumbled across a local public skate park and remembered that my old skates were still in the back of the garage. I decided that waiting for “the right time” might never happen and, heck, I’m still young by most standards, so I reckoned that if it’s something I wanted, I should make the time for it. The next day at 6 AM, I headed to the skate park instead of for my usual bike ride (plus there’s no one around at that time in the morning, so there’s no one to laugh at me). And I’m glad I did! Not only did I get an amazing workout (30 minutes skating ramps is probably equivalent to a hard 2 hour bike ride), but I rediscovered something I’d deeply missed. In a strange way, I felt more like me again.

I now skate once or twice a week; it’s great exercise and I’m having a blast! I’ve reconnected with old friends who I discovered are still skating. I have to take care of my body much more deliberately than I used to, making sure to stretch and ice injuries right away, but that’s par for the course, I guess. The experience has also pushed me in other areas of my life. The first time I hit the skate park I lasted about 30 minutes. Now I can go out for 90 minutes… and I figure that if I can push myself like that than, I can push myself in my work and with my family to do more than I thought I was capable of doing — a valuable lesson, to be sure.

So, what are you “waiting for the right time” for? Stop putting it off. If you used to run, keep running. If you’ve always wanted to play guitar, go for it! You only live once, so make the most of it. Enjoy!

Image credit: Nathan Collins

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